“Wet Gas” Leak at Western Pennsylvania Fracking Site Worse than Thought

A leak at a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) site in southwestern Pennsylvania is worse than originally thought.

According to a report from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Chevron has informed officials with Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) that as much as 80 barrels of oil condensate (also known as “wet gas”) has been spilled from a faulty joint weld on a pipeline about four feet below a fracking well pad near Robinson in Washington County, Pa. This equates to about 4,000 gallons of spilled fluids which are highly toxic.

On Dec. 20, Chevron told DEP officials that only about 100 gallons of oil condensate had spilled from the faulty pipeline and that there was no reason for concern. This week, the company updated regulators with worse information. The spill has been ongoing since the fracking well was opened on Dec. 8. A company spokesperson told the Post-Gazette they were still assessing the potential damages caused by the lead from the condensate line.

Early indications from the site are not good. Chevron has overseen the removal of more than 1,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with oil condensate at the fracking well pad site. That is enough soil to fill 113 dumpsters, according to the report. Oil condensate has contaminated the soil and surface water at the site and most testing is being completed to determine further damage caused by the leak.

The company has employed the use of containment booms, hay bales and absorbing pads around the well site in Washington County as a way of trying to sop up the leaking condensate. Chevron said it will submit a full remediation plan to DEP by the end of this week on how it plans to handle the remainder of the clean-up at the site and an outline for how it plans to address the leaking pipeline.

At least three families living closest to the well site in question in Washington County have asked that their private water wells be tested for any signs of contamination related to this leakage.

This is just the latest complication blamed on fracking drilling in Pennsylvania, and specifically this area of the state, which has seen one of the fastest expansions of natural gas exploration in the country. Hundreds of wells have opened in the area and thousands more are planned for across Pennsylvania and much of the Mid Atlantic region.

The rush to drill has led to a spate of complications which has often resulted in those living closest to active fracking wells suffering from the consequences. Private water wells within one mile of an active well are most likely to be contaminated with methane gas and other harmful toxins used during or produced by the fracking process. This is often caused by conditions similar to those being experienced at the Robinson well, a faulty pipeline normally the result of faulty construction. There are questions about the overall safety of the fracking process, even if a well was constructed properly.

Thousands of gallons of fracking fluids have been spilled all over Pennsylvania, causing untold damages and putting hundreds of people’s livelihoods at risk. Some residents have even been forced to seek alternative sources of fresh water because of contamination they blame on localized fracking drilling.

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